One Day Maybe
by Mark C.
by Mark C.
Authors Note: This story is copyrighted by the author, and no part of it may be copied, linked to, or used in any way without the express written permission of the author. This is a work of fiction, and the characters, places, and events are not real. They exist only in the mind of the author. Any resemblance to real persons, places or events is unintentional.
It's amazing how despair and anguish can make your mind go blank and all you feel is this huge empty hole in the center of your being. I couldn't move, let alone put together a coherent thought, as shock took over my mind. I must have stood there, rooted to the spot, for several minutes while I tried to make sense of what just happened. I knew what really had transpired between Seth and myself and I was mad as hell at him for spreading lies where he worked. I could see it all from James's point of view, as it looked bad for me from his side, plus since he knew the cheated-upon-partner, it was that much more hurtful to him. I could also see the hurt in his eyes as the budding loving relationship we had together was fatally damaged for him. Although I had not told him I loved him, I knew I did. I also could see his love for me in his eyes and I could just imagination the pain James was feeling now. I had to do something, but what?
"What happened, Ben?" Janice inquired as she came up to my desk, concern all over her face. "James received a call and after talking to you, left with such a stormy look on his face, and you have that same look."
Knowing I had to do something - anything - I told her what the call had been about and then informed her what really had happened between Seth and I that night he was here. My voice was a bit husky with emotion as I finished up my story.
"So what are you going to do?"
"Janice, my mind's just blank right now. Both Seth and I know what really happened but how can I prove it to James? Right now he thinks I knowingly slept with a married man and then contributed to their breakup."
"Where exactly were you two talking?"
Giving her a questioning look, I said, "Right outside my office. Why?"
"Don't you remember what was installed by Facilities several months ago for the Security team?"
From the look on my face, someone would have thought I had seen Janice grow a second head right in front of me.
"Of course! I had completely forgotten! It sits up there out of our sight and we forget all about it being there."
"It" was a camera and microphone unit installed by Security to monitor the server room area. Any corporation which loses its data through accident or deliberate sabotage will surely end up in bankruptcy court, and Security had installed the latest technology in cameras as one arrow in their data security quiver. IT management and Security must have known the exact range and scope of the unit while the rest of us just assumed the area around the server room door was covered. Could it have a record of Seth's and my conversation? Could I be so lucky?
"Dang it, Ben! Don't just stand there, go see Barney in Security and ask if he still has that date in his video archives. You've got nothing to lose at this point, except James."
"You're right. Listen, if James returns, try to get him to stay here while I go see Barney."
"Go for it, Boss."
While heading for Barney's office, my mind prevaricated between hope and despair. There were so many possibilities why this wouldn’t work. Our conversation was recorded, but it was past the archive date and had been deleted. The unit's range extended to near my office but it was not working that night. The conversation was recorded but could not be retrieved. By the time I reached the Security office where Barney was set up, I was in a dither.
Luckily Barney was in and sitting behind his desk reading a report. "Hey, Barney. Do you have a minute?"
"Sure, Ben. What's up?"
"Do you have the server room video recording for the evening of this date?" Telling him the date of the meeting with Seth, I continued, "I had a conversation with a gentleman and I need to verify what was said. I'm not sure the extent of the camera range but I’m at least hoping the microphone picked it up. I'll admit it was not a business conversation but a really important personal issue. Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated, Barney."
He nodded, looked at the date, then smiled at me and said, "You're in luck. That date is scheduled to be deleted in three days."
"Can it be retrieved and viewed, Barney?"
"This will serve as a good test of our archive retrieval process. We do test it periodically but it's always nice to have a real retrieval case. We'll use that monitor over there," indicating a monitor set up on a second desk in the office. "Pull up a chair and let's get cracking."
We sat down and Barney pulled up the security archive program and fed it the date I had given him. A list of dates for that week popped up on the screen and then Barney clicked on the date of the conversation I was looking for. "About what time do we need to look, Ben?" asked Barney without looking away from the monitor.
"I know it had to be after 8 PM, since I had made my announcement the system was going down and we do that fairly early in the night shift."
"OK, we'll start there then. You can sit here and view the video when it comes up and when you see what you want, just stop it and we'll view it real time. Here is how you control the speed. Right now it is set for 2X."
He went back to his desk and left me to the monitor. After a few seconds of searching for the time given it, the program displayed its scene of the server room door. The range of the view did not extend to my desk. However, to get to my desk most people would have to walk through the door area and would be picked up on the camera. I advanced the speed to 4X and sat back to watch. For several minutes the view did not change, just the server room door standing guard over its digital treasure. Then a man zoomed across the monitor and I had it.
"Barney, I found the spot."
He came over, sat down, and went back in the video to the point where Seth walked past the door. When running in real time, the sound would be available. Now my next question was, could we hear our conversation?
Barney fiddled with the volume control and then Seth's voice came across clearly, although just a bit faint. We heard Seth ask when the system would be available, my answer - thankfully identifiable as my voice - and then the rest of our discussion. I could picture exactly what had happened in my mind, but Barney just had the server door to look at while listening to the conversation.
When Seth left, Barney paused the video, then looked at me with a raised eyebrow. "Now what?"
"Can you go back to the point where Seth approached me and pause the video? I want someone else to hear this. And I want to thank you for doing this, Barney. I know it's not business related but it could cause personnel issues."
"Glad to help, Ben. What is the sense of installing this kind of equipment if we don't get to use it? Plus I'm glad to have a real life situation to ensure our retrieval process works and the video/microphone combination performs as advertised."
I picked up the phone and dialed Janice. "Janice speaking, how may I help you?"
"It's Ben. Is James there?" I hoped he had gone back to his desk.
"Just showed up a few seconds ago. Haven't had time to talk to him."
"Will you please bring him to Barney's office? I'm sure he won't know where it is, but don't mention me. If he asks, just say you two are meeting with an Order Entry person about a new report. And thanks, Janice."
The next minute or so was the longest of my life. Would our relationship survive, let alone flourish after this? Or was this a bump in the road which had permanently knocked us off our wheels, causing us to crash and burn? Would he even stay in the room long enough to see the video? All sorts of thoughts were swirling like fallen leaves dancing to an Autumn wind in my head.
Janice appeared in the doorway and then stepped aside and James came into the room. When he saw me, he started to say something, while backing away slightly. Barney spoke up immediately, interrupting him and introduced himself. "Hello, I'm Barney and the head of Security. Ben has something to show you. It's a video of a conversation. Please have a seat."
Although reluctant to do it with me in the room, Barney's authority was enough to get James moving toward the seat in front of the monitor and he sat down. I motioned Janice closer as well, wanting moral support. "This is a conversation between Ben and someone called Seth." Barney adjusted the volume to the highest level and then clicked the play icon. The conversation played out; our meeting, then Seth's overture, my refusal and his parting shot before he left.
I watched James throughout the entire conversation and saw his face turn from its initial stony hardness, to utter disbelief and then rage at Seth's advance on me and then embarrassment as he realized I was innocent and how he had raged at me in hurt and pain without giving me a chance to say much. At the end, he slumped in his seat and looked down at his hands in his lap. Barney and Janice quietly left and left us alone.
His voice shook and I could see he was close to tears. "Ben, I can't begin to tell you how sorry I am. It just hurt so much thinking you did that, I just blanked out. Can you ever forgive me? I feel like a real ass now and wish I could just melt into this chair." His distress was real and I could not help but go over, pull him up out of the chair and hug him. His body felt perfect against mine and I vowed right then never to let him out of my life. He hugged me back with such force and intensity, it took my breath away.
We stayed like that for several moments and then he broke from me and we looked at each other. His eyes were filled with shining love and he said, "Ben, I love you. I want to spend the rest of my life showing you just how much I do and I want to fill every day with making you happy."
Those words were just what my heart wanted to hear and I felt so light and wonderful. "I love you too, James, and I can't imagine a life without you at my side. Together we can do anything and I want to love you and show you every day how much I do."
Then we kissed, and it was such a tender kiss, full of the promise of things to come: of hope, of commitment, of love and bliss and of the physical aspect of our relationship. I never wanted it to end but I knew we had to go, as he did too, so we reluctantly broke our hug.
"I suppose we need to give Barney his office back." James said.
"Back to work, no rest for the wicked."
As we walked out of the office, we saw Barney and Janice waiting in the hallway and I thanked Barney for his efforts on our behalf. Then Janice, James, and I headed for our computer area.
With a playfulness in her voice, Janice asked, "You don't suppose Barney had a camera going in his office..."
James looked at her and said, "Perish the thought!"
"Yeah, we don't kiss and tell..."
"Oops, think you just did guys... Damn, but I love a happy ending!" said Janice with a laugh.
We grinned at each other and entered our work area. I sat down at my desk and looked over at James, the love of my life. He was looking back at me and we both felt the love in our gazes. Then his phone rang and he answered it, back in work mode, leaving me to watch him. I knew there would be issues ahead of us, such as how to handle a relationship at work, living arrangements, how to handle any future disagreements, etc. But with work, mutual respect and love, we would make it happen and grow old together.